Henry David ThoreauIntroductionReflection on industrial civilizationThoreau and China
Introduction• Henry David Thoreau, who was ignored and dismissed by his contemporaries, now has emerged as one of the greatest American literary figures. Especially in the era full of environmental crises, Thoreau’s works have attracted more attention than before and have been regarded as the classics of green works.
Introduction• Based on the close reading of Thoreau’s major work Walden, we find that although Thoreau lived in the early days of the industrial civilization when the western countries had a rapid economic development since the first Industrial Revolution and people indulged in material enjoyment which the new inventions and techniques brought about, he had already sensitively felt the impact of industrialization and had foreseen the dilemma human beings would meet in the future.
Thoreau’s reflection on industrial civilization “Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things.”• Life alienation resulting from science and technology• Science and technology had become commercialized in the industrial society.• In the course of conquering nature, not only was nature destroyed, but also people’s innocent feelings to nature had disappeared.
Thoreau’s reflection on industrial civilization• Railroad• 1. the noisy sound, the wasting of energy, and the pollution of nature• “The iron horse makes the hills echo with his snort like thunder, shaking the earth with his feet, and breathing fire and smoke from his nostrils.”• “I will not have my eyes put out and my ears spoiled by its smoke and steam and hissing…”
Thoreau’s reflection on industrial civilization• 2. The railway changed people’s lives and thinking pattern unconsciously.• “train style”—“The startings and arrivals of the cars are now the epochs in the village day. They go and come with such regularity and precision, and their whistle can be heard so far, that the farmers set their clocks by them, and thus one well-conducted institution regulates a whole country….There is something electrifying in the atmosphere of the former place.”
Thoreau’s reflection on industrial civilization• In Thoreau’s eyes, those people who drove and took the steamed-engine were much more emotionless and mechanical than the machines themselves.• “machinery person”• “Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays.” Schiller
Henry David ThoreauEnlightenment for China’s modernizationArouse reinterpretation of ancient Chineseclassics
Henry David Thoreau• “nature could be shaped to man’s purpose”• Mao Zedong• turn the treacherous Three Gorges into a navigable lake• Deng Xiaoping “Science and technology is the first power of production”
Henry David Thoreau• The Dian Pond, Tai Lake, the West Lake, the Yellow River, and the Yangzi River have all experienced different types of ecological damage.• In recent years, China has suffered many natural disasters, such as the flood in southern China in1998, the legendary sandstorms in 2002, the blizzards in southern China and the Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan in 2008.• In addition, there have been some man-made disasters, such as the 2005 Jilin Petrochemical Corporation chemical plant explosion that spilled carcinogenic pollutants into the Songhua River.
Henry David Thoreau• “Consumption”• Showing-off and enjoyment of luxuries are becoming increasingly popular in China.• All of this demonstrates what Thoreau noted in Walden— that consumption is not due to real needs, but comes out of a strong desire to have material property.
Henry David Thoreau• The Dial• The Analects of Confucius and the Doctrine of Mean• “The ideas of Mean”, “benevolence”, “having few desires”, “follow the nature”, “love people, love all nature” “self- perfection”, “happy to lead a simple and virtuous life”• “Zhi Zhong He” (致中和)• “Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and a happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth, and all things will be nourished and flourish.”